Sareng Thongba Or Catfish Curry

Fish is the most common form of meat found in East Indian Cuisine and amongst those living in Manipur, a particular species of catfish, called Sareng, is a common ingredient in many dishes. Native to these parts of the country, the Sareng was fished to near-extinction before being artificially revived by the state's fishery-department. One taste of Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry and you will instantly see why this variety of catfish has been caught so frequently by the locals.

The fish has a really strong smell and to disguise it, asafoetida is used. If you don't have asafoetida in or around you, you might find Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry a bit strong on the smell-department but in terms of taste, this is one unbeatable dish!

Ingredients required for Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry

Here is a list of the ingredients you need to get started:

• Sareng or catfish - 600 Grams
• Onions - 1
• Garlic - 6 to 7 Cloves
• Ginger - 1 one-inch piece
• Peas (frozen or fresh) - 1 Cup
• Tomato - 1
• Potato - 1
• Red Chilli Powder - 1 Teaspoon
• Coriander Powder - 1 Teaspoon
• Cumin Powder - 1/2 Teaspoon
• Turmeric Powder - 1 Generous Teaspoon
• Asafoetida - 1/4 Teaspoon
• Haribob or Sweet Lemon - 2
• Coriander Leaves - For Garnishing
• Mustard Oil

Preparing the Ingredients for cooking Sareng Thongba

Cooking Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry requires the fish to be marinated to allow the flavour of the spices to seep in. The fish, itself, has a strong taste that is accentuated by the use of the marinade, also allowing you to prepare this dish well in-advance.

• Wash and clean the fish completely - pat dry
• Cut it into small pieces or cubes
• Run the onion, ginger and garlic through a mixer or blender, add a little water along with the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder and coriander powder to create a thick paste
• Parboil the potatoes, cool and cut into cubes
• Dice the tomato and the Haribob

There are two ways to proceed from this point - you can dip the fish in the marinade for about an hour or so to allow the flavours to seep in, or you can straightaway start cooking the dish by putting the spice-paste into the pan and adding the fish later.

Let's start cooking our Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry

If you are marinating the fish, then after an hour or so, take the fish out of the marinade and set it aside. If you are cooking straightaway, then just follow the instructions below. Either way, you need to start cooking the marinade first.

• Heat some mustard oil in a wok and add the spice-paste
• Add the asafoetida and continue cooking until the oil starts to separate in the wok
• Add the Sareng to the wok and stir well to coat the fish in the paste nicely
• The fish will release some water so you need to cook until the water has evaporated
• Add the peas, the diced tomatoes, potatoes and the Haribob chunks
• Cook until the tomatoes have become squishy - should take about 5-minutes on medium heat
• Add some water and salt, and cover - cook until the potatoes are done
• Mash some of the Sareng pieces with the back of a ladle to make the gravy creamier - don't mash all the pieces though
• Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with white rice

This is a dish for special occasions and the moment you dig into it, you will know why. Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry is a fresh and refreshing dish that gels beautifully with the mild spices you are adding in. Its colour comes from the turmeric powder and you are free to omit the red chilli powder if you want the dish to be milder. Remember to keep tasting through the cooking process to ensure that you end up with the wonder that is Sareng Thongba or Catfish Curry.

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